Joined: 04 Mar 2008
Location: Escaping the Hair Lair
|Posted: Mon Apr 06, 2009 8:29 am Post subject: Eterna Familia- Book One, all story no chatter (C9-12)
|The Story So Far...
What happens when a womanizing jerk ticks off the local tavern owner in olden times? Why, a mysterious lingering curse, that's what! The jerk just happened to be Rolph.. but the curse he carried just keeps spreading!
“May you and your bastards live the life of the damned forever!” the barkeep had cried, and so Rolph did just that... but not ONLY Rolph! Every child he produced throughout the centuries lives on at the physical age at which they died: a set of septuagenarian triplets born in 1772, a nefarious forty-something born in 1890 and a financially astute nine-year-old born in 1892 .. and that's just the older kids!
Europa Fielder, one of his more recent accursed offspring, is twenty-two years old, still alive and therefore not yet immortal. She discovers that somehow her estranged father has broken free of the curse, having died instantly as the centuries of immortality caught up with him. Europa is determined to find out how.
Euro teams up with her immortal brother Davis, a quasi-skater stuck at fourteen, and Bernice, killed a century ago at the age of nine, and the little trio set out in search of the origins of the curse. All the while, the threat of Harrold, a malingering older brother who is intent on injuring Euro to the point of vegetation, lingers over the group.
Armed only with a letter embossed with the symbol of the ‘eyebrow tree’, the same symbol on the cover of a mysterious book left by their deceased father, their investigations took them to an upscale bar and grill called the ‘Incarna’. The history of the establishment seemed to fit the very place where Rolph was cursed. After tricking information out of the proprietor, their suspicions were confirmed and they headed off to the County Records office for more clues.
Bernice and Davis search the building, while Euro wanders the cavernous back hallways, looking for purchasing records for the Tavern. She realises she is lost, and a mysterious breeze is coming from inside the library. Following the trail our heroine finds herself in the back hallways of the Happy Endings Funeral Parlour and Mortuary, and barely escapes being caught by Lurch the mortician. At present, she is hiding behind a photo copier while our nefarious, corpse-like fiend locks the passage door...
I watched the door lock with slow motion fascination, at at the same time curled my body a little tighter into itself. There was NO way I wanted Lurch to catch me hiding in his CopyMax.. the scent of the toner was enough of a challenge to my assaulted nostrils as it was. After several minutes, and perhaps the most over-zealous door locking charade ever performed as a solo act- to his knowledge anyway- Lurch wander away down yet another back hallway, and I was left to my own devices.
First, I endeavored to remove myself from HIS device, my generous benefactor, the photocopier. It was more of a challenge than I had initially expected. Why is it that when entering a hiding place, one can slip in so elegantly and easily.. but when exiting, one has to hop around like a vertigo-challenged hippo? In any case, I extracted myself with most of my skin intact, and looked around carefully. The back hallway was dimly lit, out of date florescent tube lights cast a yellowy glow on the faded wallpaper, and nursing home-grade berber carpeting. The trail of marmalade crumbs had vanished at the doorway, but I now noticed a continuing pattern of carpet wear leading from the library passage door, past me, and down the hallway to the left. A series of random doors spotted the scene.
I wondered what Bernice and Davis were doing- I certainly hoped they were able to avoid "Happy" the librarian. The creepy Librarianatrix and her looming co-patriot were probably prom King and Queen at Unpopular-At-Parties Highschool.
I sniffed the air gingerly, the scent of baconized person still strong in the air, and decided to systematically work my way through the available doors towards the fading carpet trail- and towards to source of the smell. It's not that I was afraid, exactly.. but I sure wasn't in a hurry to get a tan anytime soon. The first door squealed alarmingly as I opened it, the doorknob cold and forgotten in my clammy fist. Darkness resolved itself into a collection of odd shapes which, once brightened by the ancient, buzzing lightfixture, proved to be a collection of yet more ancient photocopiers. Ho, hum. Nothing to see here, I supposed. I shut off the lights and moved to the next door. This portal lead me to a room lined with surprisingly neat accordion files. Shelves and shelves of files. Picking a folder at random, I plunged my hand in and came out with a document. "Happy Time Burger Clown Restaurant zoning and licensing permit". Seems like I had found the Registrars office at last!
The walls of files loomed before me, promising to capture my attention for hours and hours of papery fun. Ghostly paper cuts taunted my brain, and finally drove me towards a decision. Now, deep in the lair of a possible enemy.. this was not the time to start playing Sally Secretary. I marked the room in my mind, and quietly returned to the hallway. The third door lead me into a small waiting room. Aged copies of Readers Digest littered the chipboard end tables, and a carafe of stale coffee silently congealed on a sideboard. A fourth door opened onto a small washroom. The end of the hallways was within sniffing distance, much to my dismay, and I unwillingly crept towards it. My toes inched forward, unwillingly taking me around the bend towards my uncertain doom when, suddenly, my pocket started vibrating!
I jumped in the air with a semi-silent shriek, and patted myself down quickly with all the aplomb of a strip-searching FBI agent. My phone! I pulled the mangled piece of technology from my jeans in surprised, and looked at the cracked screen. Wow! Obviously this phone contract was worth all the blood, sweat, and soul crushing bill payments! I snuck back into the washroom, and closed the door behind me. Holding the phone to my ear, i gingerly whispered hello.
"--Where are you?!! We've been looking for you for ages!--"
"--that creepy Librarian keeps following us around.. Bernice and I are hiding out in the Children's Reading Room..--"
"-- and I think we may have lost her. We couldn't find anything interesting about the logo. I think we should try looking into Voodoo or Roswell, or parapsychology, but SmartyPants here doesn't think that's worth anything so.. HEY!..--"
"Hello? Hello? Davis?"
"--shut up! Sorry, Euro. Bernice here. Never let a boy take over on the phone. Where are you?--"
"Finally! Okay, so I followed a back hallway, and now i'm hiding out in the bathroom of the Happy Endings Mortuary."
"--What? That doesn't make any sense. These two buildings are connected?--"
"Yeah, I know. Anyway, there's a room full of files here, you'd just love it I'm sure, and it seems like these are the files missing from the Library Registrar's room.. but I don't want to look through them now, because I think I may be locked in here.. and... I'm scared, Bernice!"
"---- the number you have called is not in service. If you would like to try again, please dial 1 and --"
I hung up, panic welling inside me. Alone, in a bathroom, in a locked hallway, in a stinky, creepy Mortuary... fantastic! To make matters even more exciting, a soft knocking sound began somewhere above me, and the smell of marmalade began to intertwine with the scent of baking person.
I huddled in the bathroom, brains beleaguered by the stink and the insistent soft knocking sounds. My cell phone lay silent between my palms as I prayed to the great unknown..
Uh, i don't know if there's anyone/anything/any thing out there.. but if you/it/null and void are listening.. please don't let me end up being cremated by Lurch! And, um, i hope Bernice and Davis are okay. Although, to be honest, they're immortal so.. okay might be more a state of mind that anything.
um.. that is all. 10-4, superpowers... whatever
I gave up. I'm not a prayerful person at the best of times, and marinating in a mix of bathroom stink and crematorium must definitely doesn't count as the "best of times". I slunk out of the bathroom, and began to follow my nose.
The stinkwaves gave off a trail that was almost tangible. I tried to prolong my trip down the hallway, but the corner approached no matter how I dragged my feet. I lay down on my belly, and wormed my way around the bend, commando style.
Nothing. All clear. As I stood, I found the front of my shirt was now covered in a fine blend of carpet fuzz (yuck), marmalade crumbs (gross) and ash (dry heaves). I pawed ineffectually at the gunk and almost stumbled over an inappropriately placed dustbin in the process. I took careful stock of my surroundings to avoid any future mishaps.
The hallway wasn't as long as I had imagined, this side of the bend. The walls, now a nondescript beige- although from paint or age, I couldn't tell- were mostly unadorned, save for the faint tracery of a vine pattern, long since worn to shadows. Overhead, flourescent lighting added a modern touch, and it's faint crackle added a little warmth to my otherwise emotionless surroundings. The floor was surprisingly clean, and just ahead of me the carpet gave way to some rather nice wood flooring. There was a distinct lack of doors or windows in this corridor, and I realized that meant there was only one way out- ahead. A plain oak door, with rather antique looking hinges awaited at the other end.
I sent a quick text to my sister in the hope she was still able to write me back..
gone down hallway 2 my possible doom. Plz advise.
The door was warm against my face as I pressed my ear into the wood. I strained to hear anything from the other side, but slabs of oak aren't well known for their accoustics. The knob was also warm in my fingers, although worn smooth by years of turning hands. Warm? Either someone had just used this knob, or it was much more tropical on the other side! I tried to snake my fingers through the crack beneath the door in the hopes of feeling something from the other side.
"Eureka!" A high pitched voice crowed in glee, causing me to jump like an idiot, and pinch my fingers in the door. As I hopped around in somewhat silent agony, the voice continued.
"TAKE THAT you marmalade eating fiends!"
Holy guacamole.. it sure sounded like Bernice! I abandoned all pretenses at stealth, and flung myself through the doorway, wailing like an injured samurai banshee cat.
"BWEEEE-YAAAAAAWWWWWW!!! Leave my sister ALOOOOOONE!!!"
A crowd of strangers, some stranger than others, gawped at me.
"Euro? What the hell, dude?" Davis poked me with a warm, sticky finger and wrinkled his brow. Nearby, Bernice sat at a card table next to a crackling fireplace, happily playing Scrabble with Happy, Lurch, and some guy with his back to me who looked vaguely familiar.
"Wha? Buh.. who and then... and you.. the marmalade, and the ash, and the crawling. TEXT! MY TEXT! And the sounds??"
My brain shouted a perfectly cohesive collection of expletives and questions, while my mouth spattered out a mash of misshaped syllables. The assembled crowd stared me down, and I felt my self-esteem begin to evaporate in the warmer air.
"Okay. uh, let me try that again. What is going on here?"
Davis threw an arm around my shoulders, and flung the other wide in an expansive welcoming gesture.
"This, dude, is family."
The familiar stranger at the scrabble table turned around, and eyed me with one slightly bruised sardonic eyebrow posed in a position of familiar distaste.
"Hello, Europa." Harrold rolled my name off his tongue, coating it in murky intentions.
Oh. Shit. Harrold. And more family? I stumbled a little, and Lurch..er.. lurched over and led me to a nearby chair with surprising gentleness. I hoped his other customers received the same solicitous treatment, though I supposed in general it wouldn't matter to the dead.
Bernice neatly finished off her tiles, hi-fived the creepy librarian, and came over to pat my hand in a matronly manner- quite disconcerting in a child-look-alike.
"It's alright, Euro. I know this is a shock. And I know you're more than a little shocked to see us bonding so casually with our mutual enemy.." She gestured calmly to Harrold, and continued.
"As it turns out, there's more in common with our goals than not, so after roundly beating him in an earlier game, " she smiled brightly, "We instigated the current state of truce, between Harrold, us, and you."
Okay. I settled a little deeper into the worn plush velour of the chair, and, and steepled my fingers under my chin.
"Soo.. right. Truce. But what's with Happy and Lurch suddenly being declared family members? Are they..." I stumbed over the words. "Uh.. part of the club?"
"You mean Immortal?" Happy chirped into the conversation, her hands busy cheerfully assembling what seemed like an army of hot, buttered, marmalade sandwiches. "Oh yes. Quite!" She stuffed a toasted crust into her maw and made satisfied muttering noises to herself.
Lurch also confirmed his, um, membership, although with a silent nod in my direction.
"Yes, they are, Euro." Bernice let go of my hand, and patted my kneecap in a fatherly gesture, instantly switching gender roles. "You see, Lincoln has been running the funeral home for the past 60 odd years, and Gladys has been working at the library for approximately the same amount of time. Both came across each other after mutually stumbling across the tea shop- which used to be here.. and which previously housed the tavern!"
"The tavern? I mean.. ye olde taverne of ancient antiquity- the curse giving one?"
"Yep!" Davis grinned and hauled me to my feet. "The curse-giving one. It turns out we were just lucky to get to the library and this place at all. The whole Incarna thing was really just a dead end! But anyway, so, you're not going to believe this... you came in through there. Did you even LOOK?"
Bounding to the door with the effortless spunk of an endless teenager, Davis dragged me behind him and opened the oak door again. Helpless against his tidal flow, I followed.
"Okay, man. Okay! I give. I'm looking at what, exactly?"
Davis eyed me over with the mix of love and disgust that only an older relative can give- extra disconcerting in an older relative that seems to be younger than yourself- and shook his head. He tugged again on my hand, inching me further from the warmth of the games room, and further into the hallway.
"Dude! Did you even look at this place?"
I rolled my eyes and punched him lightly in the shoulder. "Uh, not really. I was too busy saving you guys.. at least that's what I thought. What's the big deal? Don't tell me.." I pitched my voice lower, and waggled my spooky-fingers at him. "... the lights are haaaaaaaunteddddd..... right? ooogley boogley?"
Again with the disgusted look, this time spiced with the sass of all his teenaged angst. He snorted derisively, the loud offshoot of his nostrils momentarily grabbing the interest of the assorted others in the room, and punched me back in the arm. The others, assured that the quota of violence was being met, turned back to the games table where yet another war of Scrabble was being waged.
"Look, Euro! Just look at all this!" Davis spread his arms wide and did a little hippity-hop of joy while I continued to look about me with total confusion. I rubbed my sore biceps.
"I just.. I don't see anything, Davis. Seriously. I mean, yeah.. the plaster is cool, i guess.. and the flooring is certainly nice, way nicer than I was expecting. It looks like someone actually took some care with this area, as opposed to the rest of this dump but.. what exactly has you prancing around like the happiest boy at the teddy bear picnic?"
"I warned you, she's too young and self involved to see past her own nose." A snooty voice polluted the hallway behind me, the heavy door closing with a click, and I felt the hair on the back of my neck tremble with mixed outrage and suspicion.
"Harrold. Captain Snark himself, oh the joy! Davis was trying to show me the.. uh.. the elegant patterns of.. uh.. crap. Okay, trying to show me something. I hardly need you barging in making snide remarks!"I put on my best Know-it-All face, and shot him a snotty look.
Harrold leaned against the far wall, and tried his best to wither me into dust with the lasers of his eyes. Apparently Bernice' little truce only held true so far as physical violence was concerned- mental anguish and embarrassment were still very much on the menu.
"Yes, well. Apparently, you do" Taking on a scholarly tone, Harrold surprised me by grabbing my hand and guiding it to the wall, pressing my fingertips firmly against the plaster in the farthest corner. His hand was surprisingly warm, the skin firm and dry, and I stifled a shudder. Too much history was between us for me to easily accept any kind of contact with my Most Hated of Siblings. (I had, at one point, sent him a valentine's day card with that message. It was hand made. Hallmark doesn't cater to the Unwanted Relative crowd.)
"Uh.. I don't see what hand holding has to.."
"Shh. Europa. Stop being so stubborn and just look!" He scrubbed a patch of dust away with the elbow of his Old Man Sweater, and gestured again, tracing the outline of a faint design with his other, unoccupied hand. Beneath his dancing finger, I saw the beginnings of a pattern leap to life.. the same curling design I had vaguely noticed while creeping to the rescue scant moments earlier.
"What the.... oh.. OOH!" There! With Harrold's help, I saw the curling tendrils of a vine emerge, the fragile leaves and stems flowing effortlessly along the wall.. further and further, branching and spreading, twisting down the hallway like one long, effortless... "TREE! It's a TREE! Oh my god.. it's the tree..."
The design culminated at the far end of the hallway, and there, barely discernible from where I stood, a small fresco hovered in the middle of the massing vines, inscribed with the mysterious Eyebrow Tree symbol.
Davis continued his Charlie Brown shuffle of joy, as I turned back to stare at my fingertip, and the start of the vine, in wonder. A twinkle of glee warmed the frozen wasteland of my arch enemy's glare, and Harrold laid a calming hand on Davis' shoulder- an indescribably fatherly gesture, a horror I never thought to witness. Again Harrold brushed at the plaster with his sleeve, and more detail lept to life. Inscribed in the center of each delicate, folding leaf was a name.
"Holy leaping.. what the f... SERIOUSLY???"
My eyeballs shot down hallway again, taking in the swirling mass of leaves and vines, and picking out the tiny writing hidden in each leaf.. each one.. tens, hundreds... names swirled down the hallway like so many bubbles down a drain, and my thoughts went with them.
I sat down heavily on my ass, the heavy wooden flooring proving less comfortable from this angle than the dingy lino and carpet had been earlier.
"Guys.. there are... is this really... US??"
My voice sounded small and tiny in my ears, one more aphid on a leaf in a giant tree.
The end of Eterna Famila: Book One! Thanks for reading!